Locus Finalist: A Brief Lesson in Native American Astronomy • 2019 • SF story by Rebecca Roanhorse


Synopsis: Dez is a famous movie star in mourning for his love Cherie.

We don’t just get sick and die. They’ve got med docs and implants and LongLife™ tech that keeps people alive for 150 years now if you can afford it, and we could afford it. So how could they let her die? How could I lose my perfect girl? How could they do that to me?

The studio director comes to help – they keep biological samples of actors so that they can replicate them in the case of fatal injuries, but Cherie’s isn’t used, and she can pass him a vial if and only if he will return to his duties. She explicitely warns him to only use virtual reality for it, but of course Dez doesn’t listen.

Review: Dez is a broken character, an estranged leader of his tribe in the throes of his mourning and his drugs. His self-destructive yearning is on the border to horror but doesn’t cross it too far.

I found the topic of digital reincarnation quite interesting and it’s quite common to a less extreme degree these days – with Star Wars continuing Princess Leia, or Fast&Furious recreating Paul Walker. These deepfakes are extended in this short story as a background trope, and find their way into a new interpretation.

The author, as a New Mexican Native American herself, deliberately chose to take a different take on the Native Tewa story “Deer Hunter and White Corn Maiden” which is worth reading for its own sake.

I see this story with its cautions about obsessive love as still relevant and beautiful. I hope that it intrigues readers enough that they learn more about Native cultures and peoples.

The title is referenced in the story only with a tongue-in-the-cheek approach: The main protagonist is a movie star (astronomy… yeah) and a Native American. But if you take the author’s hope serious and read the Tewa story, you’ll find the real cause for the title.

It is the fourth story in the anthology The Mythic Dream and reflects the first story Phantoms of the Midway in a different way.

Meta: isfdb. Published in the anthology The Mythic Dream. Read as part of the 2019 Locus Finalists.

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